spaetzle: 2 ways

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My mother is a great cook.  When I was younger I don’t think I realized how well we ate—the woman made everything from lasagna to chicken pot pie to brisket—and we even got pizza thrown in there every now and again (read: most Friday nights).  I finally caught on to her skill and tried to learn from her by studying her methods and recipes, but turns out that wasn’t as simple as it seems because everything is “ungefähr”.

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 Ungefähr (unga-fare) is German for “approximately”.  Which is to say, my mother cooks without strict guidelines and often without measures.  A classic tactic of the last generation making it hard for us to learn their tricks.

Enter my mother’s mother’s spaetzle (it’s pronounced a variety of ways…but I think you’re catching on to my German heritage).  This is a dish that in all my years had never been made for me, but had been discussed at length.  It is a simple mix of egg, flour, and water to create a quick dumpling dough.  In my knowledge of spaetzle they are often extruded and take on a thin elongated shape; but not my mother’s mother’s. Atypical to a T.

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I watched her bring together the dough just based on her memory of what it should look and feel like.  Then I watched her take heaping scoops and drop them in boiling salted water, creating dough puffs that floated to the surface when cooked.  Their texture was something at the intersection of matzoh balls and gnocchi; light but chewy and terribly addictive.

We ate them 2 ways. My mother had made a bone broth from beef rib bones that was in itself life altering, but together with the dumpling nuggets we’d made it was on another level.  I used some reserved dough to create the spaetzle I had been envisioning, still irregularly shaped but smaller and once boiled I sautéed them with butter and sage until they were a bit crisp on the edges.  It’s amazing how the simplest things can sometimes leave the largest impressions.

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I am slightly irritated it took this long for my mother to share this non-recipe recipe.  But now that I know how it looks and feels and tastes, I am sure I could find a way to throw it together—ungefähr.

*Shout out to Dad—also a cook in his own right: highly proficient in all things breakfast.

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(ungefähr) spaetzle
makes 4-6 servings of spaetzle

1 cup (ish) all purpose flour
1/2 cup water (+1/2 cup extra set aside just in case)
1 large egg
1/2 tsp salt

  1. Lightly beat the egg at the bottom of a large bowl.  Add flour, salt, and half a cup of water and mix together until combined.  You want the dough to feel elastic and a bit sticky, so if need be add more water to get a consistency that can be scooped easily (remember, this is a haphazard recipe so trust your gut).
  2. Bring a large pot of water to a rolling boil and add a good amount of salt to the water (about a tablespoon).  Using a teaspoon, dollop a spoonfuls of dough into the water.  If going for bigger dumplings, fill the spoon with dough.  If aiming for the skinnier bite-size nuggets, take a small amount on the edge of spoon and coax it off into the water. You can do this in batches.
  3. Once the dough puffs and rises to the water’s surface, use a slotted spoon to transfer them either directly into waiting bone broth preferably littered with bits of cooked carrots and onions for some depth (mom’s way) or into a pan that contains melted, salty butter with a couple of sage leaves floating around (my way). If you’re going for the buttery version, sauté the spaetzle in the butter until the edges have a touch of crispy brownness.
  4. Either version would be heightened with a dusting of grated parmesan cheese and a little sea salt.
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she’s still got it.
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spaetzle: 2 ways

roasted three squash soup (with spiced yogurt)

IMG_6689Few things are as satisfying on a cold October day than a mug of soup.  Something that is equally satisfying is finding a way to use the different varieties of squash that came out of your CSA farmshare that have been serving merely as decorative gourds because you didn’t know how to use them all.IMG_6693Whenever I am at the farmers’ market I find myself staring longingly at all the crates of squash, they are just so festive.  I am particularly drawn to the miniature ones.  Be honest, you are too.  So while you’re digging around in the back of your closet for your thick socks and your sweaters, this is the perfect thing to have bubbling away on the stove.

Butternut squash soup is easy and a standby once fall comes around, but every now and again it needs a reboot to keep things exciting.  The delicata and buttercup squash add other flavor dimensions, roasting them brings out their sweetness, and generally I am a sucker for anything with pumpkin pie spice — and it really just makes this soup that much better.  You can use other squash varieties (like sugar pumpkin which would fit perfectly in this crew), these are just what I had on hand.

IMG_6712I had considered getting ambitious and caramelizing some roasted pumpkin seeds to put on top, but lost steam and got hungry so I ate it with a hunk of baguette instead (a choice I don’t regret).  I encourage you to eat it however you see fit.

IMG_6688roasted three squash soup with spiced yogurt

SOUP
1 medium butternut squash
1 medium delicata squash
1 medium buttercup squash
1 cup yellow onion, diced
3 ½ cups vegetable stock
1 cup apple cider
½ cup heavy cream
2 tbs butter
1 tbs pumpkin pie spice (OR ½ tsp each of cinnamon, cardamom, clove, nutmeg, and ground ginger)
½ tsp each of fresh thyme and fresh sage, finely diced
salt and pepper to taste

YOGURT TOPPER
1cup plain greek yogurt
1 tsp pumpkin pie spice (or a tiny pinch of each of the spices listed above)

  1. Set oven at 350 degrees. Slice each squash down the middle lengthwise and remove the seeds. Drizzle with olive oil and sprinkle with salt and pepper, then place on a parchment paper lined baking sheet flesh-side-down and bake for 30 minutes or until fork tender.
  2. Let the squash cool and using a spoon scrape out the flesh from the skins and set aside.
  3. In a large heavy bottom pot over medium heat, melt butter and sauté the onions until soft and translucent. Add in the spices, herbs, and squash, salt, and pepper. Cook for 2 minutes. Add in the cider and stock, cover, turn down the heat to medium low, and let simmer for 20 minutes stirring occasionally.
  4. If after 20 minutes everything is softened (if not, give it 5 more minutes or so), remove from the heat and blend (either with a hand blender or transfer the mix in batches to a traditional blender). Return to pot and stir in the cream. Test the flavor for seasoning, adding more spice, salt, and pepper if needed.
  5. Stir spices into the yogurt and serve a healthy dollop on top of each cup of soup with an additional dusting of spice.IMG_6709
roasted three squash soup (with spiced yogurt)